New ID School Dresses: Design, Digitizing, & Finding Fabric

Susan and I have been working with an existing ID school to create new dresses.  I have really been enjoying those process.  Good folks.

We sent them first to read these two posts: ID School Dress Design  Chapter 1 & Chapter 2.  I don’t think I have ever finished organizing the info, but the process is there.

So far, the focus has been on getting a new design.  Lots of talking, critiquing, tweaking, and then the design is ready for me to digitize it.

I am not going to use the actual design here (don’t want to steal the school’s thunder for the unveiling day), but I can still talk about my approach using Dana’s design from her tunic dress.  Dana’s design was digitized with the same stitch ideas in mind that we are using for this school.

Here is Dana’s finished bodice.  We used a satin-look step stitch for the black and then a narrow satin-stitch for the silver.

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In a nutshell, I get the design from Susan in either a jpg format or as vector graphics.  We have experimented with the vector graphics format to see if the auto-digitizing function would work to make things go faster, but I have NEVER been happy with that function.  The logic of it on complicated designs like this one is NOT logical, and I spend so much time cleaning it up that I might as well have done it by hand in the first place.  Vector graphics can be a cleaner pic to follow, but these days I have gotten good enough at this that clear lines are no longer mandatory in the pics.

Susan has always sized the designs correctly, but sometimes in the translation from her computer, thru email to mine and then opening them in my software the dimensions have changed.  I re-check dimensions and re-size the graphics accordingly.

In the past, I have whined until Susan has put in tremendous time to show all of the overs and unders.  Again, because I have gotten pretty good at this, this time I told her I really did not care if it was drawn correctly, just indicate!  So she indicated!

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Then, I choose a starting point and get busy.  Here is the finished design.  (The lavender stitches making the box outline are basting stitches to hold the fabric in place since I use sticky stabilizer more than I actually hoop the fabric.  More about that here: Embroidery placement.)

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Not really interested in going through my whole approach to digitizing something like this, but I will say that making the overs and unders true overs and unders is important to me.  When the auto digitizer is used, this does not happen…lines just butt up against one another with weird gaps and even stitches filling angles in odd ways.  What I do takes time, but the end result is worth it to me.  This pic shows a close-up of the end result.
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My process for the new school dresses will be the same.  A big part of this process is doing test stitch-outs to see if it looks the way I want, to check thread tension, coverage, and any consequent pulling, puckering, tunnelling, or drilling.  I am expecting a full round of stitch tests on this new design because the fabric is completely different than Dana’s even though the stitch combination is the same.

Once the initial middle-range size is digitized, then I create files for each size dress.  Time-consuming, but once it is done we are set!!!

During all this time, I have also been researching fabric sources to find not only the kind of fabric we want (durable and washable), but also the quantity.  Since this is a new dress for an established school, we have many, many dresses to make.  And, another consideration for a source is that they will have this same fabric far into the future.  Heading off to JoAnn’s or Hancocks is not the solution this time.  Even my favorite online stores cannot be counted on for this kind of reliability.  But, Susan suggested Raymond’s Textiles, and I think I am set!

Susan is also creating a custom set of patterns for this school because the skirt is a bit different than the regular three panel.

So now I am doing a few wash tests to see how the fabrics react.  If all goes well, then the prototype dress made for the school director is the next step.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thedomesticdiva
    Dec 12, 2007 @ 13:30:35

    Incredible!!!! It’s a masterpiece! I’m just learning digitizing–and this blows me away.

    have you tried Spandex World in NYC? I’ve been there (I live 20 minutes from them). They have the largest dancewear fabric I’ve ever seen. Just google for website.

    happy holidays!

    With friendship,

  2. tto
    Dec 12, 2007 @ 14:24:53

    Good luck on making the school dresses. I also do school dresses. We get our fabrics from Pago and Theatre House. Both companies are very nice to work with and their fabrics are great! We use the gaberdine for the base and satin for the applique. The dresses are cleaned by a local cleaners (we onlt trust one). Some dresses are 5 years and still look nice.

    Have fun!

  3. Gina
    Dec 12, 2007 @ 19:16:21

    I can’t wait to see how this goes over … has Susan started thinking about converting the existing school work to the big machine?

  4. taoknitter
    Dec 12, 2007 @ 20:55:17

    Hi Lisa and Jan…yep checked them all out but none except Raymond’s have the bolts I need at such an incredible price!

    And Gina, we have transferred one of the other schools to the big machine. What a time saver!

  5. Ali
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 05:55:24

    It looks like fun, Ann. To your great delight, I’m sure, I’m trying my hand at vectors. Susan has converted me.

  6. taoknitter
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 09:18:14

    So when do I get to digitize one of yours, Ali? I would love that!

  7. Ali
    Dec 13, 2007 @ 09:37:00

    Soon, soon!

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